Soapboxer: Don’t take Sen. Marco Rubio too seriously

Florida Senator’s latest charades show that all he really cares about is his image

No, you shouldn’t take Marco Rubio too seriously

Somewhat lost in the media’s masturbatory coverage of every nook and cranny of the George Zimmerman shit show – never mind that military coup in Egypt, did you see what Don West’s daughter posted on Instagram?! – is the equally appalling, and far more consequential, shit show of Florida’s Boy Who Would Be King, Sen. Marco Rubio.

Rubio would very much like the crazies who got him elected three years ago to make him the Republican presidential nominee three years from now. But he would also like to be seen as a Serious Leader, One-Who-Reaches-Across-the-Aisle, the kind of Republican that mush-head pundits refer to as having Courage. So he wants to pass immigration reform. But the crazies don’t like immigration reform, officially because they don’t like “amnesty” and worry about “border security” – they’re not aware, apparently, that there’s currently net-zero immigration from Mexico – but really because they don’t like brown people (or, at least, brown people who vote for Democrats). This puts Rubio in quite the pickle.

And so he’s spent the last few months touring the Rush Limbaugh/Sean Hannity/Mark Levin circle-jerk of hell, trying to convince the Tea Party’s “thought leaders” (a phrase that deserves scare quotes if ever one did) that he was working hard to beef up border security and ensure that new immigrants couldn’t qualify for federal benefits, including the hated Obamacare.

This sad parade culminated in what has to be the headline of the year, from the Washington Post on June 5: “Rubio Currently Opposes Own Immigration Bill.” Rubio’s waffling drew the mockery of even fellow Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham, who worked with Rubio and the so-called Gang of Eight to draft the legislation: “How do we put together a bill and then the guy who put it together says that he may not vote for it? I just don’t get what we’re doing here.”

Senate Democrats eventually acceded to demands to pour $40 billion into militarizing the southern border in exchange for a handful of Republican votes. Even that pointless exercise wasn’t good enough. Rubio is now getting booed at Tea Party rallies – his erstwhile home crowd – and a recent Quinnipiac poll showed him tanking among “strong conservatives” nationwide. For an ambitious right-wing politician, this is a problem.

Now Rubio is looking to get back in the crazies’ good graces. And what better way to do that than a law inserting the federal government into women’s lady bits? Last Tuesday night, the Weekly Standard – citing numerous GOP sources – reported that Rubio had hopped aboard the cavalcade of anti-abortion-rights measures being proffered in Texas, North Carolina, Ohio and elsewhere as the lead sponsor of a Senate bill to ban abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy. A similar bill recently passed the Republican-controlled House, though it has no chance of clearing the Senate or White House. Even if somehow it cleared those hurdles, the bill’s constitutionality is, shall we say, debatable.

Actually passing legislation, of course, isn’t the point. The point, rather, is twofold: a signal from Rubio to the Tea Partiers that’s he still one of them, and a way to stir up religious zealots in advance of next year’s congressional election.

This news caused an immediate stir, and the optics weren’t great: Marco Rubio, the fresh face of a Republican Party that is supposed to be “rebranding,” going all-in on the Culture War to save his presidential aspirations. It took Team Rubio less than 24 hours to walk the story back. The next day, an (anonymous) advisor told Politico that while anti-abortion groups were asking the senator to push the legislation, he hadn’t signed on yet. Maybe next week. Or not. Who knows.

That tells you everything you need to know about Marco Rubio. Yes, he’s an anti-abortion radical. He wants to force women seeking an abortion to have an ultrasound. He’s voted against funding stem cell research. He doesn’t believe in what he calls the “so-called constitutional right to privacy that resulted in the Roe v. Wade decision.”

But what Marco Rubio really supports is Marco Rubio. Everything else is negotiable.


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